UPSET SPECIAL: Daytona 500 Upset No. 4: Mario Andretti in '67 Unique Approach Led To Unlikely Triumph For Open-Wheel Star (Note: This is the second installment in a five-part series, "The Top 5 Greatest Daytona 500 Upsets." Previously listed: At...
Daytona 500 Upset No. 4: Mario Andretti in '67
Unique Approach Led To Unlikely Triumph For Open-Wheel Star (Note: This is the second installment in a five-part series, "The Top 5 Greatest Daytona 500 Upsets." Previously listed: At No. 5, Pete Hamilton's victory in 1970.)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 9, 2007) -- As hard as it might be to imagine any Mario Andretti victory being considered an upset, his victory in the 1967 Daytona 500 most certainly was just that.
The label of greatness had only just begun to attach itself to Andretti, an Italian immigrant whose family had settled in Nazareth, Pa. upon arriving in America. His sole Indianapolis 500 victory was two years away. His Formula One title wouldn't be won until 1978. He had captured Indy-car driving championships in 1965 and '66; in NASCAR that made him interesting, but by no means intimidating.
And so he arrived in Daytona Beach that year, having raced in the Daytona 500 only once previously. In 1966 Andretti wrecked early in a Chevrolet owned by Smokey Yunick, and ended up 39th. In 1967 he returned in a factory-backed Ford readied by Holman-Moody, the manufacturer's top NASCAR team, and stunned the stock-car world.
Daytona 500 Upset No. 4: Mario Andretti, 1967
* The Favorites: Fred Lorenzen, Richard Petty, David Pearson.
* The Intangible: The daring driving style of the 26-year-old Andretti, considered both courageous and foolish, depending on who you talked to.
* The Winner's Stats: Started 12th; led 112 laps; average speed 146.926; won $48,900.
* The Rundown: Andretti attacked Daytona's 2.5-mile tri-oval like none before him, disdaining the traditional high line around the top of the banking and instead racing around at the bottom, diving there when he came off the straightaways. The result: This one wasn't even close. The official under-caution finish -- caused by a Richard Petty blown engine -- wiped away an approximate 20-second lead Andretti was enjoying over his teammate Lorenzen.
* Andretti's Take: "Lorenzen and I were teammates and he got out of the pits ahead of me on our last pit stops. I chased him down and passed him. But I knew I couldn't shake him because he was a master of the draft. But with about three laps to go we were coming down the back straightaway to lap Tiny Lund. As we approached, Tiny motioned to me to go to the outside while he went to the middle. Instead, I passed him going way down on the inside, which startled Lorenzen for an instant, and I think he backed off. That's all I needed."
* The Follow-Up: Andretti raced in the Daytona 500 only once more, crashing in 1968 and ending up 29th. His 14th and final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start came in '69 at Riverside, Calif. He finished 28th. Four months later he won the Indianapolis 500. He remains the only driver to win the Daytona 500, the Indy 500 and the F-1 championship. ... He retired from Indy-car racing after the 1994 season. ... Today he has a variety of business interests but also helps guide the racing career of grandson Marco Andretti.